Royce Freeman Embraces Oregon’s Straddled Triple Option

Charles Fischer, Mr. FishDuck Analysis

There were plenty of surprises in this game to please even the most ardent fan, but for me — the most satisfying was watching new freshman running back Royce Freeman run Oregon’s Straddled Triple Option as if he were a senior and following his offensive line for years. His part of the play is the Inside Zone Read option, and most coaches will tell you that it takes quite a bit to learn whether to run downhill, bend, or bounce as described in an analysis piece on by Coach Levi Steier recently.

It took LaMichael James a year while redshirting to master it, and Kenyon Barner took most of his freshman year to learn the nuances of the Inside Zone Read and how to read the blocks. Let’s take a look at Oregon’s next great running back!

The base play for the Oregon Offense...

The base play for the Oregon Offense …

Freeman is lined up to the left of the QB (above) and is about to be a part of the base play of the Oregon offense, the Inside Zone Read. Note the path of the orange line as this would be the path to the intended gap to run to if all went well with the blocking. However, the running back can adjust to the blocking and cut it elsewhere if a hole is open.

While the Zone Read takes place--so does the blocking!

While the Zone Read takes place — so does the blocking!

At a fraction after the mesh (above), we see that Marcus Mariota has been looking at the opposing defensive end (dotted yellow arrow) to see if he will “sit” or chase the Oregon RB. Since the DE is “sitting,” then the correct read is to hand off to Royce because without that man blocked — all of the Duck’s blocking responsibilities shifted over one man, thus we have a hat-on-hat blocking to the side the Men of Oregon intend to run to. Note the red arrow pointing to the superb job that Andre Yruretagoyena is doing on his defender, and the green arrow points to a tremendous block to the inside by Cameron Hunt to create a running lane for Freeman (the red circle shows Bubble Pass threat, which stretches the defense that much more).

Carrington sets a block!

Carrington sets a block!

Royce is scampering in open field as Hunt is dominating his man (green arrow) and Andre is preventing his defender from even having a chance to make a play (red arrow). But, whoa baby! Who is laying the wood on a safety to clear out more room for Freeman? Darren Carrington was smooth and fluid as a wide receiver catching everything his direction, but on this play he shows us why he is playing. Not only can he block, but the way he is launching himself into the Coyote? He seems to be enjoying it (yellow circle)!


Royce ran well, but it was the correct zone read by Marcus and the incredible blocking (above) by Hunt, Andre and Carrington that makes this an easy nine yards for the Oregon offense.

The beginning of the Straddled Triple Option...

The beginning of the Straddled Triple Option …

The Ducks line up in twin backs behind Mariota, with Freeman (green arrow, above) on his left. What I love about using the Straddled Triple Option play is that we have so many backs that can play either side of the threats Oregon suggests with this play. All three running backs could be the Inside Zone Read option or the pitch man option on this play, thus it is difficult for the defense to know which direction the Ducks are running with this play.

Zone Reading done in milliseconds...

Zone Reading done in milliseconds …

At the moment of meshing between Marcus and Royce (above), you see Mariota looking right at the Coyote defensive end for the read, and since he is “sitting” again — handing off to Freeman is the correct option. This first option of the Straddled Triple Option is the Inside Zone Read to the right while threatening a Speed Double Option to the left where the QB can keep or pitch to the trailing RB to the outside. Since Freeman knows how to run the Inside Zone Read, and the option is open — it makes sense to give the ball to the freshman.

Look at the block of Jake Pisarcik!  (Green arrow)

Look at the block of Jake Pisarcik (green arrow)!

The orange dotted lines (above) indicate the path of the Speed Double Option to the left should Marcus pull the ball, but it is becoming apparent that the Duck QB made the correct read as the blocking is being formed. Note the yellow arrow of Yruretagoyena controlling his man, while the green arrow is pointing to a tremendous block by Jake Pisarcik!  From the bottom you’ll also see Dwayne Stanford laying a great block on the Free Safety which helps to open the path to the goal line!


This is one time that it makes sense to bounce the run outside and Freeman makes the right read of the blocks, explodes outside and heads down the sideline for the second of many touchdowns to come in his career at Oregon. He is showing us speed, power, and the vision to see the gaps form from our emerging offensive line. Seems like a natural!

Some of you may wonder why I would review a base play of the Oregon offense at this time when we have progressed into so many other tangents of Oregon football. First — Royce Freeman looked like a great fit for the play, and second? Not everyone has been around the site for three years to know about Oregon’s Straddled Triple Option play.

Glenn Parker of the Pac-12 Network knows more football than I do with his time spent playing at Arizona and in the NFL … but he does not know the Oregon offense. Did you catch how he did not know of this play? He called the Speed Double Option portion of it a “misdirection” without knowing it is a fundamental part of the Straddled Triple Option.

I suspect with the triple tailbacks at Oregon, that coach Scott Frost may pull this play out more often than the recent past to utilize this strength at Oregon. It is fun to see it again!

“Oh how we love to learn about our beloved Ducks!”

Charles Fischer  (FishDuck)
Oregon Football Analyst for CFF Network/
Eugene, Oregon

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